NEW YORK – A Pakistani immigrant was convicted Wednesday of charges he plotted to blow up one of Manhattan's busiest subway stations in retaliation for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
A federal jury in Brooklyn deliberated two days before convicting Shahawar Matin Siraj of conspiracy and other charges. He faces up to life in prison.
The defense had sought to portray Siraj, 23, as an impressionable simpleton who was lured into a phony plot by a paid informant eager to earn his keep. Prosecutors disputed that claim, arguing that even if it was not the defendant's idea to bomb a subway station, no law-abiding citizen would have gone along with it.
U.S. Attorney Todd Harrison suggested to jurors that "normal people" like them would have responded, "Excuse me, are you crazy? Thanks, but no thanks."
Siraj and another man suspected in the plot, James Elshafay, were arrested on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention carrying crude diagrams of their target — the subway station in Herald Square, a dense shopping district that includes Macy's flagship department store. Elshafay immediately agreed to cooperate with the government.
Authorities said Siraj had no affiliation with known terrorist organizations. Instead, he caught the attention of the informant, Osama Eldawoody, and an undercover police officer with his anti-American rants at an Islamic bookstore where he worked.